Author Archives: BYU Political Science

Public Affairs Lecture Series: Margaret Woolley Busse

   On February 21st, BYU Lecture Series was blessed to have Margaret Woolley Busse speak to students. Margaret Busse started her lecture by asking students, “What would you be if you were what you thought about in the shower?” She explained how in the shower one can let their mind naturally think and go where it wants, when there really is nothing else to think about. She went on to share that for herself, Busse thinks of the most effective ways to help people lead lives of dignity, purpose, and prosperity. This seemed to become the focus of her lecture, to give insight that might help BYU students live lives of dignity, purpose, and prosperity.

Margaret Busse graduated with her bachelors from Brigham Young University. She then went to business school at Harvard University. In the past she has worked with the U.S. Treasury department and The Bridgespan Group-nonprofit. As well, Busse has served in her local Massachusetts government and recently was a candidate for State Senator. Busse spent the majority of her time sharing some of the lessons she learned from running for State Senator.

Even though she was not voted senator, Margaret Busse learned several important insights that are beneficial for anyone who might be interested in running for a political office. She was gracious in sharing her insights. She started with a pretty important factor to consider when running for office; the potential sacrifice of one’s integrity. Busse shared that keeping her integrity and doing what was needed to win often did not coexist in her political campaign. This become a hard balance as she was never willing to give up her integrity, even when she was advised it would work in her favor. Another sacrifice that hit her while running for senator was a loss in her social scene. Many of Busse’s friends were not willing to talk politics or listen to her side because they were not supportive of the republican party. She noticed that some of her friendships were hurt because many of her friends were hurt by President Trump, and they couldn’t separate Busse from him, as she was the candidate for the republican party.

President Trump was a whole other issue as it was hard for Busse to separate herself from him even when she would have liked to. Trump seemed to be the only face actually representing the republican party. She recognized that the United States is currently hyper politically polarized and acknowledged that this polarization had a huge negative impact on her campaign. To bridge some of the gap, Busse naturally wanted to find common ground with the democratic party and work together. However, she quickly learned that this was not an effective approach, especially in debates when the audience wanted to see the contrast between parties.

In the end Margaret Busse shared that she was grateful for the things she learned and opportunity she had to run for senator. To paraphrase she said, “losing is hard, but it was valuable to give voters a choice and I got to contribute my ideas to the public and give them more options.” She closed with sharing that her life has been a continual effort of figuring out where God wants her to serve. She said that making it all work requires faithfulness, flexibility, creativity, diligence, and spousal support. Her final invitation to students was to stay engaged in the politics of our country. She asked them not to look away but to uplift democracy by participating and staying engaged.

We are grateful for the inspiration and insight that Margaret Woolley Busse shared. Thank you!

Public Affairs Lecture Series: Senator Jeff Flake

On Thursday, January 24th, BYU lecture series was pleased to have Senator Jeff Flake speak to students. Jeff Flake is a politician who served as a United States Senator from Arizona from 2013 to 2019. A Republican, Flake previously served in the United States House of Representatives from 2001 to 2013. Jeff Flake was born in Snowflake, Arizona, and attended Brigham Young University where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations and later his Master of Arts degree in political science.

Jeff Flake shared with students that his interest in politics started at a young age, as he watched his father serve as mayor of his town. Following his mission to South Africa, he was interested in politics in Africa. After his graduation Jeff Flake and his wife, Sherill, headed out to Washington D.C. with no internship, no offer, and no real destination. Fortunately, they quickly found jobs and Flake started his work on Capitol Hill as an intern.

Jeff Flake also shared with students the most important things that he felt he learned while attending BYU. He said that he was grateful for his political science classes. He felt like these classes really pushed him academically and taught him how to be precise and detailed. Flake also recognized how valuable it was that he learned how to write effectively as a student. He shared that as an employer he looks for people who can write clearly, persuasively, and grammatically correct. Flake also shared with students that if he could go back to his time at BYU, he would take more classes in economics. He believes a good understanding in economics would have been very helpful in congress and in other opportunities he has had in his career.

After a motivating introduction, Jeff Flake left the remainder of the time to take questions from the students. The following are some of the highlights from those questions:


Q: What is the best way to bridge that gap between having a different personal opinion than the stance that your supported party takes?

A: In political positions first ask yourself, “are you a representative or a delegate?” I believe in the later. You have to be driven by your personal opinion and feel you are moving the country in the direction you believe it should go. If I only desired is to win a reelection, then that would mean adopting things I couldn’t adopt and acting in a behavior that I don’t believe in. I couldn’t do it. I know there are perks to being in the arena, but you must also know there are lots of sacrifices. Especially on your family. If you are just there to mark time and enjoy the perks and not take your stance, it is not worth the sacrifices.

Q: What would be your do’s and don’ts for a young intern, who is hopefully for success in Washington D.C.?

A: When you’re there, take every opportunity you can to network. Go to events, hearings, receptions; literally whatever it is, take advantage of all of those things. To get a job in Washington, it really is all about connections. Also, except positions that may not pay well. When you are looking for internships, leave your pride at the door! You might have an advanced degree, language skills, and good people skills, but you must remember that just about everyone competing with you has a similar background. So be humble and work your way up. Finally, be careful about your presents on social media. What you post and what you like. Be careful even about posting about positions that you take. People can interpret things however they want to on social media. Life can be unfair, and you can easily be treated unfairly for something from the past.


Q: As young people in politics we want to defend truth and also be bipartisan? How do we navigate through what we believe to be right with what we bend to be neutral on?

A: This is a current problem in this country. You have to share facts that a deemed as truth in order to move forward. Change the channel! Don’t watch Fox all day or only CNN or NBC. You need to see what other people believe and see with different issues. Likewise, change your news feed. Don’t drink your own bathwater. Realize that at your age you have something that people my age only dreamed of. We have access to everything involved in politics in the click of a button. Unfortunately, these advancements have not necessarily led people to have more educated views. So, make sure that you take advantage of them. Also remember that not everyone feels the same way that you do.

Thank you Senator Jeff Flake for your insights!

Public Affairs Lecture Series: Crystal Young-Otterstrom

On Thursday, January 17th, 2019, Crystal Young-Otterstrom spoke to student on the value of humanities and arts within the political sphere. Crystal has been involved in politics for 15+ years and has kept her career service oriented. She is one of the three co-chairs of Latter-Day Saint Democrats of America and recently was the treasurer of the Utah Democratic Party. She is also Executive Director of Utah Cultural Alliance and heavily involved in Utah’s cultural sector.

Crystal Young-Otterstrom started her lecture by sharing, “Everything I know about politics I learned from the Art of Humanities.”  Crystal considers herself a lobbyist for culture. She taught that creativity is the most valued trait to employers and that this trait can be learned best through the arts. She encouraged students to take classes that can help them develop these skills. She taught that like theater, politics is a performance of selling oneself and learning how to communicate in a compelling way. The theater and performance classes that Crystal took in college helped her to feel confident when public speaking. She learned how to be concise and compelling. Crystal also explained how the arts embraces uniqueness. As she explained this principle, she encouraged students to embrace their own uniqueness. Teaching that embracing one’s uniqueness will give more to their future. As Crystal would say, “You be you! You do you!”

Crystal also inspired students by teaching them her motto in life— “What you can dream, you can do.” She taught that one’s desires can become a reality when they bring together faith and action. Encouraging students to always keep trying, she also reminded student, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). She explained, “Don’t be discouraged if you feel you don’t have time to do it all now. Your time might come in the future.”

Thank you, Crystal, for your enthusiastic remarks!



Public Affairs Lecture Series: Elizabeth Fitzsimmons

On November 8th, 2018 BYU Lecture Series was privileged to hear from Elizabeth Fitzsimmons. Elizabeth is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State since October 1, 2018. She was previously the Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Department from March to August 2018. Prior assignments include Deputy Executive Secretary to Secretaries Kerry and Tillerson, Senior Advisor at the Foreign Service Institute, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs and the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. She joined the Department in 1995, and at the time of her swearing in was the youngest member of the Foreign Service.

In her lecture, Elizabeth outlined for BYU students the process of getting a job at the state department. Recognizing that it is a meritocracy, Elizabeth encouraged students to apply if interested because it doesn’t matter their status or connections, it’s all based on one’s ability to take the test. She reminded us that she herself didn’t even have a graduate degree when she got started!

Students interested need to prepare for the foreign service exam. Around 25,000 students are first admitted thought this exam, but only 1,500 progress to the essay portion. In the essay portion one is asked to talk about their cross-culture connectivity. Missions are a good advantage in this portion if one can discuss they cross-culture flexibility and language skills. Following the essay is an oral exam. Elizabeth recommends approaching this portion with strong negotiation skills. In the oral exam one will negotiate with a team on where money should be spent and how to prioritize what is best for the scenario given. Finally, once an individual has passed through all these tests they go through a series of background and security clearances.

Following the test, an individual gets two entry level directed tours. These tours are designed to test and see if one is suited for a long-term career at the State Department. At this point one decides whether they want to be a foreign service officer or a civil service officer. When considering these options, Elizabeth recommend asking oneself if they’d be happier living abroad or in Washington D.C. Also consider that foreign service officers work on a more general level, while civil service officers are specialist. Again, Elizabeth encouraged students that this could be their future and shared how grateful she is that she took the effort and a leap of faith to try when she was younger.

At the conclusion of her lecture Elizabeth gave advice and shared her “secret sauce” to success with the students:

  1. Articulate Your Values and Live Them Distinctly:

Elizabeth shared that balancing work and home life is very important to her. She is a working mother and wife. She acknowledged the great blessing her supportive husband and children are. Her secret sauce to living up to this value is making sure her family sits together around the dinner table 6 nights a week.

  1. Have Integrity and be Authentic:

From her experience, Elizabeth knows that people want to hire individuals who are enthusiastic about what they do and are authentic about it. She recommended that students need to figure out what they love and then go with full heart in that direction because it will be natural for them to be authentic. Along with being authentic, one must be honest in words and actions. She learned this value when she faced a career failure. She didn’t hide the situation from others, or even hide her feelings of discouragement. Elizabeth has now seen that her value of integrity has enabled her to connect with people with enormous intellectual integrity.

We are grateful for all the advice Elizabeth shared. The lecture was full of insight and inspiration. Thank you, Elizabeth, for the time you spent with us at BYU!

Public Affairs Lecture Series: John Dinkelman

BYU Lecture series was privileged to hear from John Dinkelman on Thursday, November 14th, 2018. John Dinkelman is chief of staff in the Bureau of Administration at the U.S. Department of State. Dinkelman’s overseas assignments with the Foreign Service have included: Yugoslavia, the UK, the Marshall Islands, the Netherlands, Turkey, Mexico, and most recently the Bahamas as chargé d’affaires. During his five years at the Foreign Service Institute, he trained over 2,700 officers—more than 40 percent of the American diplomatic corps—for which he received the 2006 Arnold L. Raphel Memorial Award.

John prefaced his lecture by telling students, “I am here to convince you that there is no better career path to follow than mine. I don’t pretend to have all the soul answers for your life, but I can share that what I have done has been my dream, and it could be yours.”

While studying business at Brigham Young University, John found himself sneaking out of the Tanner building to attend classes in the Kennedy. He shared, “Those classeses were fun for me. I didn’t consider it school.” But although John was interested in politics and foreign affairs, he felt he needed to stay with what he considered a safe education, and finished his studies in business. John then shared this important life principle:

“If you feel impressed, or in your heart you have a desire to pursue a certain education or career, always follow those feelings.”

Luckily for John, an opportunity came his way that led him to where he is today. One day John was informed that the Foreign Service Exam was being given near him and he felt encouraged to take it. He shared, “My heart sang when I considered taking the test. I had a feeling that it was right for me.” However, in his first attempt, John failed terribly. He continued to prepare and ended up taking the exam several times before he found himself heading east for Washington D.C.

As John started his career, he shared that he felt very inadequate; and still to this day sometimes feels those same threats of inadequacy. However, John has been given his dream experience over the years, as he has worked and grown in foreign service. He shared some of the following as the highlights in his career. He invited students to consider following his career path if they also desire these outcome for their future.

  1. The opportunity to serve the United States and represent one’s country.
  2. The privilege of meeting and serving with leaders from countries all over the world.
  3. The priceless experience of helping to build God’s kingdom throughout the world in small branches where strong families are desperately needed.
  4. The treasured opportunities to live in so many different countries. And to then get to teach ones children different ways of life among many different cultures.
  5. The many experiences that help teach the entire family how be selfless and have service mentality.

Finally, John closed by again encouraging students to follow the desires of their heart. He shared in regards to his career, “Do not discount your opportunity to do this job. If I can get it, you can too. If something inside you is telling you to pursue this, then you must pursue it. Don’t do yourself the disservice of not taking the opportunity to try. You never want to look back and say, ‘I could have. I might have. I should have.’ And who knows, you might succeed.”

Thank you John Dinkelman for your insightful stories and encouraging words!


Public Affairs Lecture Series: Ally Isom

Brigham Young University enjoyed having Ally Isom speak at the Public Affairs Lecture Series on Thursday, November 2nd. Ally Isom is currently the director of Institutional Messaging for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The evening was full of her sharing motivational experiences and inspiration advice. She continually reminded us throughout the night that there is “no magic formula for success, except faith.”

Ally Isom graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in communications. After graduation, Isom started her career working for several political campaigns. From there, she worked as government affairs director for the Utah Department of Workforce Services. Later in her career she was appointed as the Utah governor’s deputy chief of staff. She worked as communications director, and spokesperson for Governor Gary R. Herbert. Currently, Ally works as the director of family and communications relations for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In regard to her career, Ally shared five principles that she follows when confronted with an issue. She explained that using these guiding principles in the following order helps promote success.


Ally explained that carrying about people should proceed all other principles. Often in politics, individuals want to lead with the influence of policy or politics, but Ally argued that there is a better way as she explained these five guiding principles.

A highlight throughout the lecture was hearing Ally’s many references to her faith. Ally continually acknowledged the importance of trusting in God as He guides the futures. She advised, “put your career at God’s alter because he will make more of you than you can ever make of yourself.” She also taught that the spirit is the most loyal mentor and guide in our lives. She reminded us to listen to the prompting of the spirit, for “he will tell you when you went too far and when you have not gone far enough.”

It was also inspiring to hear Ally share her personal experience as being a woman, working in politics. Ally Isom is breaking barriers by being a working mom in Utah and holding higher position in politics and within the church. Ally taught that the dilemma between motherhood and the workforce is not real. She explained that options are only limited when one doesn’t have an imagination. It was evident that Ally was living proof of that statement. She shared many of the experiences that she has had as a woman, and mother, in politics.

Another highlight of the lecture was the advice that Ally said she would give if she could talk to her 22-year-old self. She gave the advice as follows.

  1. Breath because it’s all going to be okay
  2. Never stop learning and keep you mind open
  3. Keep your skills sharp and your network vibrant
  4. Leaders are not always on top of the organization chart
  5. Trust in God

Finally, Ally ended her lecture teaching us a principle that none will soon forget. She taught that practicing true discipleship in the public arena will transform an individual. In the hyper-polarized world we live in, we need to resist placing people in polarized duality. We must discuss ideas, issues, and solutions without being unkind, and remember that people matter, and each soul has infinite value.  We must see with spiritual eyes and hear with spiritual ears. Ally acknowledged that there will be hard days ahead but reminded us that we can do wondrous work for God. And finally, she invited us to “act with faith and revolutionize the world in which we live.”

We are so grateful for Ally Isom’s words of inspiration. She truly is the embodiment of her words and we appreciate her example to all those who were at the Public Affairs Lecture Series.

Public Affairs Lecture Series: Bud Scruggs

On October 11th, 2018, Heber E. Scruggs spoke to students at the BYU Public Affairs Lecture Series. “Bud” Scruggs focused his lecture on his experience in business and politics, while also leaving students with advice for their futures. He gave high regards to the “bright and good students at BYU”!

Bud studied Political Science at Brigham Young University and then graduated from Law school in 1984.  He worked several years as a political consultant, working with Orrin Hatch’s campaign in 1982 and Jake Garn’s in 1986. Following his work as a political consultant, Scruggs came back to BYU as a full-time faculty member. He soon found his lifestyle as a professor to be quite lonely; so consequently, he only taught for four years.

Throughout his lecture Bud gave credit to his wife, Shirly, and spoke of the influence she had on his career. He shared an example of how Shirly blessed him while he was deciding whether to stay as a professor at BYU or look for another opportunity. Shirly told Bud, “You can be a poorly compensated professor and be very happy and come home every day happy. I would be fine with that. But I will not be married to an unhappy, poorly compensated man.” Following his wife’s counsel, Bud started working for Leucadia National Corporation, running their operating companies. He stayed there for a decade until he was called to serve as a mission president for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Sydney, Australia mission.

After sharing his experience and background, Bud left time to take some questions from students in attendance. Below are the questions that were asked.

What skills should I develop to be a good campaigned manager? 

  1. Master a to-do list. He talked about the value of creating a to-do list and then moving forward and acting on that list.
  2. Develop your writing skills. Bud shared that he felt like a late bloomer academically, but at BYU he learned how to write and continually worked on enhancing his writing skills.
  3. Go beyond what you are asked to do. He advised that if you are willing to work and then deliver, you will skyrocket into a successful future.


How did you transcend into the business world from a political science background?

Bud responded, “I was willing to ask stupid questions so that I could be informed on things I didn’t understand.” He talked about never taking an accounting class and only having a basic understanding of finances, but he took the opportunity to ask those around him who did have a great understanding in these fields. He reassured students that although he felt like he was “stumbling up the learning curve”, he was never “losing calories trying to pretend that [he] was something that [he] wasn’t.”

He shared how much he enjoyed his experience in politics, while also sharing why he loved being in the business world. He told students, “at the end of the day, you have either made money or lost money.” Bud seems to live a life where he takes all the opportunities that come his way, while also remembering that “making money is fun!”

Bud concluded his lecture by offering one last piece of advice for students. He warned against caring too much about money at this time in their life. He reminded them that their time will never be cheaper than it is right now! He advised, “be willing to go in as the underpaid rookie, pursue your passion, and be poor.”

Bud Scruggs left students motivated to excel in their education. He reminded everyone that the future can be planned, but unplanned opportunities should be welcomed.

Thank you, Bud, for sharing your time and insights with all of us!


Public Affairs Lecture Series: Crystal Young-Otterstrom

On Thursday, April5, 2018, Crystal Young-Otterstrom spoke to students about her career within the Utah Cultural Alliance and described her career path and life lessons. Young-Otterstrom is the executive director of Utah Cultural Alliance, the statewide advocacy voice for the arts, humanities, and cultural businesses of Utah; state treasurer of the Utah Democratic Party (elected position); and one of the managing editors of She serves as a co-chair for LDS Dems of America and as a co-founder and board chair for Salty Cricket Composers Collective. For eight years, she was the audience development manager for the Utah Symphony and seven years for the Utah Opera. A composer and coloratura soprano, Young-Otterstrom received a BA in music theory with minors in humanities, economics, and marketing at BYU and an MA in musicology and composition from the Aaron Copland School of Music in New York.

She began her presentation explaining that her main priority within her career is to act as an advocacy voice for the arts and humanities. Demonstrating her involvement in the community and politics, she listed several boards and organizations that she participates in. Among these are Utah Women and Politics PAC, Americans for the Arts, BYU PAS, Planned Parenthood Action Council of Utah, the School Community Council at Emerson Elementary, and Alliance for a Better Utah—to name a few. Quoting John Aster, she encapsulated her young-self’s motto, “what you can do or dream, you can begin it, boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” She then explained as she has learned and grown, her favorite quote has shifted to Ecclesiastes 3:1, “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

Speaking about her political interests, Young-Otterstrom started out as a republican, but after being involved with the republican club at BYU, she realized that she was more left learning than she originally thought. She explained that at BYU she felt free to explore her political identity and became involved with activism for a time. After leaving BYU she became increasingly more involved in the Democratic Party. In 2011, she helped form LDS Dems as the vice chair.

Elaborating on the purpose of the Utah Cultural Alliance, she explained that the focus of the organization is to act as an advocating voice for the arts and humanities, raise awareness on the impact of the cultural center on the community using supporting data, and provide accessible professional development for those working in the arts and humanities. The Utah Cultural Alliance advocated for keeping the arts a required course in Utah middle schools. By petitioning the school board and calling a special hearing, they helped broker a compromise where parents could opt their child out a subject if wanted, but would be required to replace it with a similar class. Young-Otterstrom explained that although she is involved in partisanship, she enjoys working for a non-partisan organization. It is her opinion that the arts and humanities is not a partisan issue, and as the number one state in arts participation, it is not hard to justify that claim in Utah. She explains that within a non-partisan organization, everyone is friends and have decided to never take things personally. She enjoys getting to work with people from the other side of the political spectrum on something that they both agree on. She explained that this has been a great way to grow the diversity within her personal network, and she has learned that the most effective elected officials are bridge builders.

Closing with lessons she has learned throughout her career. First, Young-Otterstrom encouraged students to diversify their skill sets. She said that it is vitally important to always continue learning how to do new things, because a career requires a variety of skills rather than one specialized task. Second, she stressed the importance of becoming a “bridge builder.” She said that people respect you when you take a stand for things, but if you become immoveable, nobody will want to work with you. Third, don’t be afraid to say yes to things. Do not think you are underqualified if you are being invited. And fourth, always make time for your family as you go about your career. She explained that it is very important to draw lines around your work and home life, but it is very possible to do both.

Young-Otterstrom closed her lecture with a quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: “There is room for those who speak different languages, celebrate diverse cultures, and live in a host of locations. There is room for the single, for the married, for large families, and for the childless. There is room for those who once had questions regarding their faith and room for those who still do. There is room for those with differing sexual attractions. In short, there is a place for everyone who loves God and honors His commandments as the inviolable measuring rod for personal behavior, for if love of God is the melody of our shared song, surely our common quest to obey Him is the indispensable harmony in it. With divine imperatives of love and faith, repentance and compassion, honesty and forgiveness, there is room in this choir for all who wish to be there.”

Thank you Crystal for your enthusiastic remarks!

Public Affairs Lecture Series: Frank Pignanelli

On Thursday, March 22, 2018, Frank Pignanelli gave students a brief look into his career as a lobbyist and also provided career advice and life lessons. Pignanelli is a founding partner in the law firm Foxley & Pignanelli, specializing in government relations and public affairs. Pignanelli served in the House of Representatives for ten years, as one of the youngest Utahns ever elected to state office. Currently he serves on the advisory board for the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah and The University of Utah Venture Fund. He also writes a Sunday column on political activities in Utah for the Deseret News.


Speaking as part of the Public Affairs Lecture Series, Pignanelli first explained what makes a good lobbyist. He is explained that it is critical that a lobbyist has strong communication skills, can think strategically and understand that the environment he or she is working in. Quoting Godfather, he said, “it is not personal, it’s strictly business.”
He addressed the fact that lobbyists as a profession are often perceived in a negative way, because their job is to educate lawmakers on issues and hope to influence their direction. He explained that lobbying is one of the primary functions of democracy, because it helps lawmakers understand what the citizen wants and needs. However, he explained that as a lobbyist, he will “always lose in a battle with a well organized citizen group.” Pignanelli used the words of Sun Tzu to emphasize his points, “Those who do not know the plans of competitors cannot prepare alliances. Those who do not know the lay of the land cannot maneuver their forces. Those who do not use local guides cannot take advantage of the ground.”


In his opinion, there are many positive aspects to lobbying. It impacts public policy in the name of the people, it utilizes political and communication skills, and there is no pressure to hold office.


Pignanelli’s career path was not as direct as most lobbyists, but intriguing nonetheless. After attending the University of Utah law school, and gaining some experience in the field, he ran for the House of Representatives in 1986. He also worked as a trial attorney for a number of years and in October of 1997, formed his lobbying firm with his partner, Doug Foxley.


Highlighting his career and things that he has learned along the way, he stressed that employers look for somebody who can work well with others, communicate well, and work hard with a lot of dedication. His general advice included: learn how to work with others, think of ways to self improve, and communication skills are imperative. Above all, he stressed that treating people well—both clients and colleagues—is critical to your reputation and good career. Ann Landers said, “you can easily judge the character of a person by how he or she treats those who can do nothing for her or him.” He explained that this advice applies to all people, regardless of profession. In closing he stated that the skills needed to be a good lobbyist will serve well for any and all professions: effectively communicating, being a leader, treating others well and working hard.


Thank you Frank Pignanelli for sharing your career and insights with us!


Public Affairs Lecture Series: Royce Van Tassell

Royce Van Tassell, Executive Director of the Utah Association of Charter Schools, spoke on March 15 for the Public Affairs Lecture Series at BYU. He spoke about what life is like as a lobbyist, and director of Charter Schools. He said we have an extraordinary 135 Charter Schools in Utah, which give choice to students who do not prefer public schools.

He then delineated four “Flavors” of Lobbyists: Corporate Lobbyists, Think Tank Lobbyists, Industrial Association/Union Lobbyists, and Contract Lobbyists, each with a different role to play in promoting the agendas of different political interests. In order to be an influential lobbyist, he said, we need to gain trust, which is our biggest asset. He then gave four ways to earn the trust: First, feed your clients. They all need to eat. Second, entertain them, at golf other in other ways. It’s a great way to connect with people and to discuss important policy items in an informal setting. Third, help elect them. That will gain the most trust. Fourth, inform them. Good information is important to everyone, and if you deliver it, people will begin to rely on you and trust you.

Royce reviewed a day in the life of a lobbyist on Capitol Hill in Utah, similar to lobbyists everywhere including Washington, DC. It involves early reading and preparation in the morning, committee meetings, votes, lunch, more committee meetings, then time on the floor of the legislature.

Finally, Royce gave our students four points of advice: First, learn quantitative methods of analysis; Second, write precisely and concisely; Third, know all sides of an argument better than anyone else (that’s what a good advocate does); Fourth, separate policy from people—don’t hate the person, and make friends with opponents. Fifth, assume that the other side has good intentions until they prove you wrong. Most of the time, political people are honest and open. However, sometimes they burn you. That may be intentional, or circumstantial (out of their control). Sixth, and lastly, he recommended that we listen to news stories both federal, state and local. Listen and learn! Listen, listen, listen! Relationships matter, and listening can build relationships.

His lecture was a fascinating view into the life of a successful lobbyist, and into the Utah Charter School system. Thank you, Royce, for an amazing look into the political process.